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Discuss the Causes of British Decolonisation from Any one African State. to What Extent Was This Decolonisation ‘planned’?

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states decolonisation was entirely planned. Some argue that the process of decolonisation was due to Britain’s moral high-ground, that they did not feel they had to govern these peoples (Darwin, 2010). However, this does not seem to be the case. As aforementioned, financial interests arguably underpin Britain’s actions in relation to its colonised. The very notion of not intervening in preserving the empire was one that came about due to the assessment of the financial situation Britain was already in. Yet, as mentioned before, Britain did try to annul Nigerian uprising on one occasion as an attempt to maintain control (the Enugu Colliery Strike). ‘Decolonisation in Africa was not a measured progression from empire to nation-state in which imperial reappraisal was hastened by colonial revolt…Consequences were a far cry from what policy makers had wanted’. (Darwin 1996), Britain, however, did in fact have a plan for decolonisation of Nigeria, unlike other colonies of which it had acquiesced, and during 1957, with the promise of adopting a federal system of government, Britain agreed that by 1960, Nigeria would have its independence. This happened to come to fruition. Britain did in fact also have a plan for economic development of the country by investing in education, £10.4 was to be spent on health services as well as investments into education. With this in mind, one could argue the benignity of British decolonisation, yet, on further inspection, given the agricultural nature of the Nigerian economy, one can see that it benefitted the European colonial economies more so than that of the Nigerians (Falola & Heaton, 2008). Therefore, the notion of the benevolent metropole is not a factor in the reason for decolonisation, as yet still, there was a desire for economic dominance.

In conclusion, it appears that financial interests underpinned the decolonisation of Nigeria, be that in regards to the lack of desire to maintain an empire there, the avoidance of clashes with nationalist leaders due to its potentially negative impacts on British finances. Although violence in colonies of other European powers displayed the cost of life that could potentially be lost, it was economic losses that truly underpinned every action during the period of decolonisation. And although a plan for decolonisation of Nigeria did exist, without the waning economy of the British empire, it is unlikely that Britain would have been willing to devolve power and decolonise, as seen by Britain’s determination to maintain a level of influence. The Nigerian question therefore is one of which circumstances did push Britain to grant Nigeria independence, but had Britain’s empire remained firm, and Britain the uncontested global superpower, it seems unlikely decolonisation would have taken place.


Darwin, John(1984) ’British decolonization since 1945: A pattern or a puzzle?’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 12: 2, 187 — 209

Darwin, J. and Woods, N. (1997). Explaining international relations since 1945. Choice Reviews Online, 34(08), pp.34-4738-34-4738.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2016). Obafemi Awolowo | Nigerian politician. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2016].

Falola, T. and Heaton, M. (1999). The history of Nigeria. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Louis, W., Canny, N., Low, A., Marshall, P., Porter, A., Brown, J. and Winks, R. (1998). The Oxford History of the British Empire. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press. (2016). Nigeria - The Road to independence. [online] Available at: – [Accessed 3 Nov. 2016].

Ward, S. (2001). British Culture and the end of empire. p.3.


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